As a business, it’s not just about what you sell, it’s how you sell it.

Knowing the demographic details of your target market is important, but so is understanding their behaviors and the psychology of how they buy. Creating a positive customer experience helps influence consumers to make purchases and remain loyal to your business.

There are different elements of customer experience that help provide a better interaction for your customers. Take Podium for example. Our software offers businesses a better way to interact with their customers, perfecting and streamlining the tasks of communication, payment, reviews, and feedback.

A positive customer experience means everything for business, so consciously working to make every element of your business pleasant and seamless for customers is essential. This is where visual merchandising comes in—controlling the environment of your business for the best possible customer experience.

What is visual merchandising?

Visual merchandising refers to the creation of an environment that highlights your products or services in an attractive way, emphasizing features and benefits by controlling and appealing to the senses. Ninety percent of the information sent to the brain is visual—so visual queues matter when selling online or in-store.

Knowledge of your target market, and tailoring your selling techniques to them through smart, intentional display techniques is at the heart of effective visual merchandising. Understanding your business’ ideal audiences allows you to create an environment that enables buying decisions—and one that elevates your brand image and visibility. Optimizing your store with smart visual merchandising is essential for both online and brick-and-mortar businesses, and is key for conversions and positive customer experiences. It is also crucial for distinguishing your brand from competitors.

What principles influence visual merchandising?

In truth, there are many factors that influence visual merchandising, and the specific elements typically differ by field and target audience. But a few principles can help your business create an exceptional customer experience through strong visual merchandising:

  • Medium. Typically, visual merchandising has been prominently employed in the domain of physical stores, as marketers analyze successful sales trends in brick-and-mortar businesses. But with the growth of e-commerce in the last decade, online stores must consider the translation of tried-and-true visual merchandising techniques into digital spaces. While virtual marketing can’t necessarily affect the environment in the way a physical store can, there are new, uncharted opportunities to utilize smart visual merchandising to increase sales, grow your business, and provide positive experiences for customers on your website.
  • Customer behavior and psychology. Believe it or not, science can provide valuable knowledge and proven patterns to guide your business’ visual merchandising tactics. Even subconsciously, consumers engage in certain behaviors while shopping, and react to certain stimuli in retail spaces; positively manipulating and controlling your environment allows your business to use those behaviors to benefit your bottom line and create satisfied customers.
  • Consumer retail data. Similar to the psychology of customer shopping behaviors, businesses can research and study available retail data (from their company and others) to identify relevant patterns, important statistics, and useful facts to help them in creating an intentional, positive customer experience. You can also use this data to adjust your visual merchandising tactics over time and improve your strategy.

What are the elements of visual merchandising?

So let’s get down to it. What are the effective elements of visual merchandising? Here are a few tools your business can utilize to create a positive retail environment — whether online or in-store — that influences customers to buy.

  • Sensory details. Whether shoppers realize it or not, they are being affected by a business’ sensory environment. What they smell, see, touch, hear (and even sometimes taste) have an impact on their experience with a brand. And while e-commerce business’ constitute a different sensory space (online shoppers aren’t going to smell or taste a business’ environment, for example), it still matters what kind of conditions you’re creating for consumers. Overly loud music or intense fragrances? Might work for some brands and sabotage others. Clean, organized inventory and comfortable seating? Likely appealing for many customers. Online stores should consider their own unique sensory environments: are their websites aesthetically pleasing? Do color schemes create positive feelings? When considering the sensory details of your unique business, be intentional about the environment you create and follow tried-and-true principles to improve customer experience.
  • Layout and space. How is your store (or website) organized? Well-structured and intuitive retail environments make for positive customer response. Overly-crowded, tight, poorly-structured or uncomfortable retail environments will turn them off. The layout of businesses should invite engagement, promote positive emotive experiences, and make the customer journey seamless, while still maximizing consumers’ exposure to products. Does your website have important elements of white space to allow consumers to rest their eyes? Is there a focal point? (FYI: focal points, or “hotspots” can increase sales by — wait for it — 229 percent.) Are call-to-action buttons clear and your navigation easy to use? Your placement of inventory and other tangential retail elements create visual spaces that largely influence how customers experience your business — even subconsciously.
  • Communication and storytelling. You may not realize it, but your retail environment is communicating a message to consumers. So, think about it: what story are you telling? Are you promoting an ideal? Is it consistent with your brand image? Use your product to help a consumer envision themselves using it. Put them in the experience. Manipulating elements of visual merchandising can determine what you’re communicating to those shoppers who engage with your business online. Be memorable.

Above all, remember that visual merchandising requires an intentional approach to your retail environment. Whether it’s physical or digital, your business needs to utilize techniques that create positive customer experiences through visual displays and ultimately, grow your business.

Visual Merchandising vs. Traditional Marketing

Marketing involves the strategies that help your business gain customer visibility and engagement. Marketing techniques are adapted to individuals businesses and industries, tailored to what is most effective for their target markets.

Both visual merchandising and marketing utilize proven consumer psychology, behavior, and data to make business decisions and influence consumer buying.

Marketing is the umbrella effort that includes many techniques and strategies to spread the word about your business. Visual merchandising is an important element of marketing that businesses should develop to increase sales. It is one of many strategies that lead to business growth.

Tell Your Story

You can increase your sales and elevate your brand image by employing techniques of visual storytelling. Merchandising is just one way to create powerful and persuasive customer experiences around your brand. Does your business want more ways to create positive customer experiences? Let Podium help. We make two-way communication and review generation as simple as sending a text.

Nico Dato
Nico Dato Executive Vice President of Marketing

Nico Dato is the EVP of Marketing at Podium, the premiere messaging platform that connects local businesses with their customers. He fuses his passion for statistics, design, and digital marketing to produce measurable results.

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